Austin College professor of art Mark Smith has an exhibition of new paintings and drawings, The Signal Series, on display December 1 through January 12 at William Campbell Contemporary Art in Fort Worth. The show will feature 12 of Smith’s richly hued, abstract paintings and more than a dozen new drawings that directly address the artist’s fascination with the intricate physical and psychological networks of communication that saturate our culture. These abstract interpretations map out pathways that remain largely unseen despite their ubiquitous presence. Expressed in highly pigmented shapes and lines that emerge and recede both individually and in concert with one another, Smith says his nonrepresentational compositions reveal energy transference across space and time, delving deeply into the many complex layers of each.
Smith has long been interested in the systems and patterns around us, and as a result, continuously analyzes the spatial relationships in everything he sees. As such, The Signal Series saw its genesis in the artist’s investigations of communication-based structures that originated in the 18th and 19th centuries—the towers, light-emitting machines, and mathematical discoveries that defined early long-distance infrastructure. The ensuing pieces reference the underlying energy Smith perceives exists all around, for instance, the tangible and intangible transmission patterns within these larger, recognizable mechanisms.
Smith muses, “What if we could visualize the signals, the patterns, the bursts of energy, and the beautiful movement of waveforms that are made in time and space as we communicate with each other?” His latest series endeavors to encompass this idea in areas full of content deliberately applied and set organically in motion, radiating a quiet energy among the elements as they shift and float in an attempt to make connections. Each one needs another to fully complete itself, not unlike an electrical circuit (and not unlike humankind).
Smith’s paintings consist of high-density pigment on Russian birch panels. Visually and physically complex, they are more built than brushed, the result of a meticulous application process that includes layer upon layer of manipulated medium, often up to 10 strata that have been stacked, reduced, augmented, subtracted, separated, and fused. Heady yet delicate, the semi-translucent layers shift and pulsate to reveal additional information underneath and within the two-dimensional surface. Smith’s handling of his medium inspires conversations about excavation and discovery in visual and contemplative terms.
“I enjoy the pleasure of following through with the instincts behind the urge to make abstract paintings,” the artist writes. “I find it both comforting and affirming that the process itself always seems to evolve as a journey leading to insights about life and our inevitable connectedness as human beings.” In fact, Smith has created a certain synergy between intellect and intuition in this artwork, which allies cultural technological underpinnings with personal investigation and expression.
Overall, Smith’s networks of lines and shapes become quiet reflections on the fundamental yet extraordinary systems that galvanize infinitely disparate elements. They emit low reverberations throughout the picture plane, mimicking transmissions of energy, or signals, that power communications at every level of our existence. He writes, “If we could see these signals, which are everywhere, we would see a matrix that weaves our lives together. We are a glorious patchwork of connection and no doubt are part of a much bigger whole.”
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Mark Smith has exhibited work extensively throughout North Texas and across the United States, including solo and group shows in Fort Worth, Dallas, Arlington, Austin, Houston, Miami, New Orleans, Santa Fe, and New York City. His work has been featured in numerous publications, among them Art in America, New American Paintings, the Star-Telegram, Fort Worth Weekly, Dallas Morning News, Dallas Observer, and the Times-Picayune. He has also been heard in segments on radio stations KERA, WRR, and WBAP.
Smith’s work appears in various corporate collections, including those of Belo, Chase Manhattan Bank, Citicorp, Neiman-Marcus, Nokia, Sony Music, the Tandy Corporation, and Texas Instruments. Additional collections include those of Austin College, Boston University, the City of Denton, the City of Los Angeles, KERA, Tulane University, and the University of North Texas, among others.
Smith currently serves as Craig Professor of the Arts at Austin College, where he has taught since 1986. He has held positions as visiting artist and lecturer at Boston University, the City University of New York, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Kimbell Art Museum, Texas Christian University, Texas Woman’s University, the University of North Carolina, and the University of Texas at Austin, to name a few.
Smith earned his MFA from Queens College of the City University of New York and his BFA from Kansas City Art Institute. William Campbell Contemporary Art has represented him since 1985.
ABOUT THE GALLERY
Founded in 1974 by William and Pam Campbell, William Campbell Contemporary Art exhibits high-quality contemporary art in a variety of media, including paintings, works on paper, mixed-media constructions, photography, prints, ceramics, and sculpture. By exhibiting nationally recognized artists, along with new and emerging talent, the gallery aims to nurture an awareness and appreciation of the exciting diversity found in contemporary art.